For the 16th Sunday of the liturgical year, we have three parables to reflect on, the darnel, the mustard seed and the yeast.
The setting is Galilee, a small area of land. It is a beautiful open countryside that Jesus loved, with the lake, the mountains, the trees the homesteads, the daily life of women and men in the home and on the farms.
These were the roads he travelled, walked and talked with people; went fishing with the disciples, visited the farms and the homes. In doing all this, Jesus took the simple familiar experiences of people’s lives to tell them about God’s love – like a wheat field with darnel, a mustard seed, a woman baking bread, hardly spectacular you might say!
He raised their hopes by speaking of the kingdom of God which was about to come. Jesus’ understanding of this kingdom was quite different to one that was expected. There will be no wars or battles, instead he speaks about a kingdom of justice, love and peace for all people. And so it was from this fragile beginning, when small groups of women and men listened to Jesus and went their way faithfully putting his words into action in their lives. They were followed through the centuries to us, building His kingdom of love, truth and compassion throughout the world.
As we read these words of Jesus today, how do you and I make his message visible by our lives?
Covid 19 has caused devastation and suffering to millions of people throughout the world over the last many months. However, the slow-down has given many of us time to do some gardening, planting, tending. With joy we watched the new growth. We also grumble a bit on seeing the weeds grow faster by the day.
In the parable, there were the workers and the farmer. The farmer tells them to leave the weeds alone. The harvest will separate them. Inexperienced gardeners often root out young flowers as well as weeds. The farmer is more patient. He knew that in the early stage of growth the green wheat shoots look similar to young weeds. The enthusiasm of the workers to rid the crop of the weeds is not what is required.
Think of the times we got it wrong, misjudged people or situations, blaming them, only to find later that we were wrong. How often, do we hear ourselves saying, if only that person wasn’t around, if only we could get rid of this issue and so on. Clearing the weeds to make everything look neat and tidy is what we like to do. And then we can get on with life.
Pause for a moment, what are the issues that represent weeds in your life? Perhaps we are all a mixture of wheat and weeds! Jesus is asking us to have patience, to struggle to live with our own imperfections and those of others and to patiently wait for the new life in God.
Similarly the tiny mustard seed and the invisible yeast have their own homely wisdom. This tiny seed grows to a large tree, providing shelter and nesting for the birds. The woman can’t actually see the yeast working through the dough. And yet somehow she trust what happens. Mixed with the yeast, the dough grows mysteriously large ready to be baked.
In each of these parables you offer us a word of life – your wisdom for daily living. Sometimes, like the mustard seed, perhaps we feel alone, doing small acts of goodness that may appear insignificant. We too are the baker woman, full of energy, trusting that the invisible yeast at work will rise the dough into a large cake. Other times the weeds and wheat within us struggle to shed light or darkness.
May we join all our small efforts, wheat grains, mustard seeds and yeast cells to the communion of God’s love. It is there that transformation takes place silently, lovingly, compassionately.
Loving God, your words are spirit and they are life.
Speak your gracious word to us O God again, so that every small act done in your Name may become life giving in our lives, so that your word in us may be transformed into your kingdom here in our time.
O God let your wisdom and love be stronger in us than anything that may hinder us from proclaiming your word.
May our minds and hearts rest in your words this day and always.
Sr. Martina Phelan OP